6 Tips for Taking Great Wedding Photos

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Once upon a time, summer meant sun, sand and no responsibilities. The final bell would ring on the school year and you were home free, not a care in the world. Now all I can think about is how much I dread the humidity. Kidding, of course. Summer fun is still to be had even if you’re a little older, and that includes getting all gussied up to celebrate new love during wedding season!

If you’re a photographer, it also means you’ve probably got some jobs lined up. In my opinion, wedding photography is one of the most fun jobs to have. Yes, there are some headaches involved just as with any job, but how many jobs let you in on a great party? In order to help you enjoy your wedding photo shoot to its fullest, here are some tips that will help you take masterpiece wedding pictures worthy of hanging on the wall forever.

Shoot Before You Shoot

Thinking about how much the couple has had to prepare for their big day is anxiety inducing. But that’s why it’s all planned months and months ahead of time. If you’re looking to lower your pulse rate the day of, your prep should be no less thorough. The way I always put it is this: production is pre-production. “Shoot” as much of the day on paper before you’re pressing that shutter button for real. It will not only ensure you get all the shots you want but will also free you up to capture the ones you didn’t know you needed.

Weddings, after all, are just controlled chaos. Knowledge is your greatest weapon against disaster. Call up the wedding venue and ask if you can scout it out beforehand. Keep an eye on the weather to know what the lighting and ambiance will be. And most importantly, create as detailed of a shot list as you can. Sit down with the couple and ask them what they want so you make sure you get it. For instance, if they want a picture in a candlelit room, you need to have the right lighting set up. Knowing what you’re getting yourself into makes it a whole lot easier to get yourself out of difficult spots when they arise.

Backup Your Backups

I’m always surprised when I see a cameraman on the job with just one camera body. Skirting danger and risking the whole shoot at every moment. “Good luck with that,” I think. That takes the guts of a true daredevil. So, if you’re not the type to live dangerously, I recommend backing up everything. And I do mean everything – your camera, lenses, lights, batteries (for the love, bring all the battery power you can afford). Anything can happen when you’ve got hundreds of people cutting loose for hours on end. The last thing you want is to be stuck without the tools to complete the job.

And remember that you’ve been given a responsibility to capture this onetime event. There are no do-overs. Sure, disaster doesn’t always strike, but technical difficulties do happen. If you’re prepared, then you won’t miss capturing a great moment because of them. This will reduce your stress level considerably. Having one less thing on your mind will help you focus on the task at hand. And that’s when you find wedding photo gold.

Dress for Success

You’ve got a lot to capture at a wedding. It’s no easy task, I know. But the single, most important thing to get right above all is the wedding dress – even if there isn’t one at the wedding. Hear me out. You of course don’t want an unhappy bride on your hand, so if she’s wearing a radiant white dress, you want to properly capture it. But even if there’s no dress in sight, you must know how to properly expose that bright, beaming color if you want the rest of your photos to come out right.

No matter what style of wedding you attend or how unique the décor may be, bright white is a color that will always find its way to your camera sensor. Seriously. I’ve been to farmhouse hoedowns, traditional black-tie affairs, and even a few where somebody’s DIY Pinterest boards got a serious workout. Every single one had the color white peppered throughout. You will find it on table cloths, floral arrangements, décor accessories, tuxedos and dresses. That means you need to counter the blow out potential.

Exposure compensation will help you keep those white colors from turning gray or looking blown out. Unless you tell it otherwise, your camera is always looking for a middle ground when exposing a shot. Adjusting your stops through exposure compensation will help add the right amount of light needed to keep those whites crisp and defined. Getting it right on site will greatly reduce in post editing work, and help you avoid under exposed photos.

Find the Little Moments

I’m no expert on fads, but it sure seems like with every passing year those super staged group wedding photos grow more and more out of style. Call it a sign of our tech-driven times or movement of cinematic design, but we’re all craving more reality these days. Photos of real moments speak volumes. Put simply: they’re honest. Not stuffy and fake. So, seek out the little moments throughout the day. The hugs and laughs and tears and terrible dance moves. Did you hear about the trend of bouncy castles at weddings? Gravitate towards places like that where classic memories are bound to be made.

Overall, you want to tell the story of what went on during the celebration to the couple, because they simply can’t see everything. To do this, you’ve got to keep a sharp eye and snap like crazy. Even if you take dozens of bad photos, you’ll always find the diamonds in the rough. Weddings are emotional affairs, so try to capture the spectrum. Consider bringing another shooter with you so that you can get more coverage. Volume is value at an event where great moments happen at light speed.

Be Inclusive  

When two families come together, it’s a beautiful thing. And sometimes funny, and heartwarming and awkward and just totally incredible. You can’t possibly fully contain the spirit of the day on film, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try! Start with the goal of taking a picture of absolutely every guest at the wedding. From the cousins to the grandparents, the brothers and the best friends. Snap them all at least once to show the entire scope of the day.

Think about it: the wedding is most likely the first time these families and friends have come together as a new community. They now share a common bond and it’s all right there on display. Do a little elbow nudging to get both sides to interact. You’re not just the photographer, you are a story teller, directing a documentary of this life changing day. Encourage a little mischief, mix up the crowds, and play along with all the fanfare. All the while keeping your finger on the button, of course.

Party Down

You might be thinking – I have a job to do, I can’t partake in the festivities. Nonsense! The reality is, you’re a part of the celebration too. Have a piece of cake, bust a couple moves on the dancefloor, laugh at Uncle Frank’s jokes. This tip is really simple: if you’re relaxed, you will take better photos. Stress is no friend to creativity. It’s okay to have a little fun at work, right? And if you enjoy yourself, it will show in your photography.

Is your masterpiece complete and hanging on the wall? We would love to see your wedding photo frame presentations! Share them with us on social by tagging your post with #framingjoy so we can toast to the new couple with you.

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